Lutzenkirchen public speaking award successfully endowed by foundation in Opelika

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The W. James Samford, Jr. Foundation in Opelika has endowed The Philip Lutzenkirchen Excellence in Public Speaking Award. The funds will support a public speaking competition in the School of Communication and Journalism at Auburn University in honor of the late Auburn tight end and communication graduate, Philip Lutzenkirchen.

Jennifer Johnson, lecturer in the School of Communication and Journalism in the College of Liberal Arts, has worked with the Lutzenkirchen family, the Office of Development, and faculty and staff toward making the endowment a reality.

"It is a true distinction to have this award endowed in Philip’s honor through funds generously provided by the W. James Samford, Jr. Foundation," Johnson said. "Both Philip Lutzenkirchen and Jimmy Samford were true Auburn men whose lives continue to impact those who held them so dear in life. Now, through this award, both Auburn men are forever linked in a way that will have an impact on Auburn students for years to come."

Speaking competitions are slated to take place each fall and spring semester and contestants will be nominated by their communication classmates. Judges of the competition will be a combination of alumni, faculty, donors and industry leaders. The top three winners will receive a cash award.

Mike Lutzenkirchen, Philip’s father, said, "When approached with the idea of ‘The Philip Lutzenkirchen Excellence in Public Speaking Award,’ our family discussed how this would honor Philip for his ‘off-field’ accomplishments, and, more importantly, make a positive impact on Auburn University communication students for the foreseeable future.

Lutzenkirchen is well known for his accolades on the football field, but it was his personality, kindness and positive energy that caught the attention of faculty in the School of Communication and Journalism.

"When I look back now on the time I spent with Philip, I so clearly see how it was the teacher who became the student and how the student was, all along, the teacher," Johnson recalled.

On June 29, 2014, Philip Lutzenkirchen died in a tragic single-vehicle accident at just 23 years old.

"The Philip Lutzenkirchen Excellence in Public Speaking Award has a dual purpose. With this award we seek to honor the outstanding work being presented by current students enrolled in our public speaking classes while at the same time honoring the memory and legacy of a former outstanding student," Johnson said.

Johnson is looking to expand the reach of the award.

"It is our goal to continue to raise funds for this project in the hopes of eventually being able to provide scholarships in addition to the semesterly public speaking award," Johnson said.

To donate, or for more information about the Philip Lutzenkirchen Excellence in Public Speaking Award, please contact Jennifer Johnson at

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